|Canada 1's Charley Thomas|
26 Aug 2015 – Finland will play USA and Japan will take on Canada 1 in the semifinals of the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015 Mixed Doubles Curling Tournament in Naseby, Central Otago on Thursday morning.
At the start of play on Wednesday morning all six teams in Group A were still in contention for the three playoff spots.
Canada 1 finally found some of the form that earned them a World Championship semi-final in April, leaving group leaders Japan with no answer to an 11-0 scoreline after just six ends.
Australia stole doubles in the last two ends to beat China 8-5, and the New Zealand team were millimetres away from a difficult angled raise for a last stone win, but but lost their encounter against USA 6-5.
“We’re definitely playing a lot better in the second half of the tournament,” said Canada’s Charley Thomas. “We’re getting a better handle on the ice conditions, and putting rocks in better positions.”
Japan and USA had already qualified, and the morning round left New Zealand 1 and Canada 1 facing a tiebreaker later in the day.
The qualifiers from Group B were known before their last round, so the contest was for top spot and direct entry to the semi-finals.
New Zealand 2 had the opportunity to secure that position but fell to Canada 2 in a high-scoring 10-9 game. Finland topped the group after beating China 11-2, and Australia 2 scored their second win, 7-5 against the Koreans.
New Zealand stole the first three ends of the mid-afternoon tiebreaker against Canada 1, but Canada came back and eventually scored the single they needed in the last end, but not before a nervous moment as their last-stone hit jammed and the NZ rock rolled just far enough for the Canadian stone to count.
After coming so close, New Zealand’s Brett Sargon said, “It gives us a lot of confidence to take two top sides so close today, and we’re pretty happy with how we played – but still a bit disappointed that we couldn’t get one of the games over the line.”
The two Canadian sides faced off in one of the evening quarter-finals. 2014 Canadian champions Wayne and Kim Tuck played the 2015 side of Charley Thomas and Kalynn Park. The latter pair struggled early, losing three of their first four matches but have found some form at the business end of the tournament. Canada 1’s Thomas used his precision hitting at crucial moments to help his side to a 6-2 win.
Team USA’s Korey Dropkin and Sarah Anderson faced the local favourites, the New Zealand 2 side of Bridget and Scott Becker in the other quarter-final. The Americans were ahead 7-1 at the fourth end break and the Kiwis shook hands at 10-4 after seven ends.
“It’s going well, we’re happy to be in the semis,” said Dropkin afterwards. “We’re looking forward to playing Finland. They’re a strong team, but we’re just hoping to go out there and give it our best shot and play our game.”